The automatic sorting system is an important branch of the material handling system and is widely used in production logistics systems or logistics distribution centers in various industries. The automatic sorting machine is mainly composed of a feeding device, a conveying device, a control system, a sorting device and a sorting crossing. It is one of the key equipments for automatic sorting and sorting of items. According to the structure of the sorting device, the common automatic sorters mainly include slider sorter, runner (or inclined wheel) sorting, cross-belt sorting, flap sorting machine, swing arm sorting machine, floating sorter, tray sorter, hanging sorter, etc. In addition, the AGV sorting system that has appeared in recent years seems to have more possibilities.
1. Changes in market demand
In terms of market application, with the rapid development of the logistics industry, especially the business outbreak of e-commerce, express delivery and other industries, and the rising labor costs, the market for automated conveying and sorting equipment has experienced explosive growth.
From the perspective of the application industry, the postal express industry has undoubtedly experienced the largest increase in demand for conveying and sorting systems in recent years. Undoubtedly, the great development of e-commerce has directly driven the rapid growth of express parcel volume. As we all know that China has a special day “Double 11”, do you know how many express logistics orders will be generated during this period? An incredible 1.352 billion pieces! In the whole day, various postal and express delivery companies handled more than 400 million parcels. And year after year, new logistics records and delivery speeds have been set. The timeliness of logistics and distribution is moving from days to hours and minutes.
In addition to the huge increase in demand in the e-commerce and express delivery markets, the main fields of application of conveying and sorting equipment also include tobacco, medicine, circulation, food, automobile and other industries. The market demand for conveying and sorting equipment in these fields still accounts for most of the total demand, and the growth in demand for conveying and sorting equipment is relatively stable. In addition, with the continuous advancement of intelligent manufacturing, the demand for transportation and sorting systems in the production and warehousing links of manufacturing enterprises has increased, and more and more logistics equipment companies have developed and provided corresponding transportation and sorting solutions.
From the perspective of geographical area, most of the traditional conveying and sorting system application projects are concentrated in economically developed and densely populated areas. However, it cannot be ignored that the availability of land in these areas is increasingly tight, and the price of land is also rising. The projects in e-commerce and other industries have fallen sharply this year, bringing some variables to the growth of the market. However, many industry entrepreneurs are still firmly optimistic about the development of China’s logistics market.
2. Industry Development
Companies offering conveyor sorting systems in the market are mainly divided into two categories:
Professional conveying and sorting technology and solutions company
Logistics System Integrator
In terms of traditional automatic conveying and sorting technology, Vanderlande, Siemens, Fives and other European and American advanced enterprises are very representative international advanced enterprises. In the high-end markets of transportation and sorting, such as airport baggage handling systems, postal services, tobacco, medicine and other industries, international advanced enterprises still play a leading and enlightening role. However, China’s fastest growing market segments, such as express delivery and e-commerce markets, are extremely cost-sensitive. There is no doubt that Chinese companies have obvious advantages in terms of product cost performance.
3. Analysis of technology development
Automatic conveying and sorting technology is mainly divided into two schools: one is a traditional automatic sorting system composed of conveying lines and sorting machines, although it is still developing in terms of product detail design and performance, such as combining the latest information technology, material The networking technology is developing in the direction of intelligence, but its working principle and mode have not undergone major changes. Another genre is the AGV sorting system that has emerged since the KIVA robot, which has attracted more and more attention from the market due to its high degree of flexibility; of course, each equipment and technology has its most applicable fields.
Let us now briefly divide the application range of different types of equipment according to the weight of the goods that the automatic sorting system can handle:
1. Small items – less than 5 kg, circular cross-belt system, small AGV, intelligent modular belt sorting system.
2. Medium and large items – 6-35kg, cylindrical sorting, swing arm sorting, pendulum sorting, slider sorting, linear cross-belt system, ball roller top module belt sorting.
3. Large items – over 35kg, manual sorting.
At present, the cross-belt sorting system and the AGV sorting system are the most popular automated logistics equipment in the market in the past two years.
The cross-belt sorting system uses a small fleet driven by linear power to move at high speed along the circular track, and sorts the labeled goods through the code reading of the scanner. It is suitable for large and medium-sized venues in e-commerce, clothing, express delivery and other industries. Structurally, the cross-belt sorter is mainly composed of four parts: control device, sorting device, conveying device and sorting crossing.
The cross-belt sorter adopts the traditional mechanical design, with simple principle, firm structure, and gentle and accurate sorting action. The advantage is that when the order volume is large enough, the sorting efficiency is the highest, so it is favored by e-commerce and express customers, and has become the mainstream of sorting equipment in recent years. However, this product also has disadvantages: it covers a large area, and has high requirements for the flatness of the ground; the cost of construction is high, the conveying module is easily damaged, and the maintenance cost is also high. At present, some technical enterprises have done a lot to solve these problems. Optimization and improvement, such as China’s well-known brand HONG’S BELT has achieved remarkable results in this field and has gone international.
The package supply mode of the cross-belt sorting system is divided into manual package supply: automatic package supply and manual semi-automatic package supply. The automatic package supply system consists of three sections, namely the import section, the acceleration section and the package supply section. Among the three package supply methods, automatic package supply has the highest efficiency, but the requirements for the corresponding materials and the shape of the goods and the orientation of the labels are also very high, and the goods packages must be separated individually before sorting. Manual semi-automatic supply of packages is based on the supply section of the automatic package supply system, and a manual delivery station is added, and multiple front-end staff perform package delivery work; due to the different number of personnel and operating proficiency, the efficiency of package supply is Relatively not very high, and the fluctuation range is large; but manual semi-automatic package supply has lower requirements for front-end goods, and does not limit the orientation of labels. Manual package supply is that the staff adjust the orientation of the package label and put it in the center of the trolley to complete the package supply; the operation efficiency is affected by the operating speed of the personnel and the idleness of the trolley, and due to manual delivery, the operating speed of the trolley is limited, and the overall efficiency is relatively low.
For the AGV sorting system, the supply personnel place the goods to be sorted on the AGV trolley. The AGV trolley identifies the destination of the package through the barcode scanning system, and the dispatching control system plans the path for the AGV trolley. When the goods arrive at the destination bay, the top of the AGV unloads the goods to realize the sorting of the goods.
The AGV car is a transport vehicle that automatically travels along a designated route, and its travel route is generally controlled by a computer. According to the guidance method, AGV is mainly divided into electromagnetic, magnetic tape, inertial, laser and visual guidance; according to the driving method, AGV can be divided into single-wheel drive, differential drive and omnidirectional drive; according to the transfer method, AGV can be divided into Forklift type, track type, traction type, piggyback type, etc.
As an innovation of traditional sorting mode, AGV can realize a series of sorting operations in a small area. In addition, AGV can set up many destination bays, which can effectively improve sorting efficiency for express companies that send to different places every day. AGV operation is a parallel mode. During the application process, all AGVs can be dispatched through a system. If a single machine is damaged, it will not affect the normal operation of other AGVs.
Then we seem to be able to draw the conclusion that traditional automatic sorting systems and AGV sorting have their own scope of application.
In a distribution center with a large enough order volume, the efficiency of the cross-belt sorter is significantly higher than that of the AGV sorting system. AGV has great requirements on the weight and volume shape of goods, and has limited operational efficiency, so in some warehouses with relatively large orders, cross-sorting is still a better choice.
4. The future development trend of technology
Various equipment manufacturers and solution providers have agreed to maximize customer value through product standardization and modularization. Specifically, “designing products in a standardized way” means that suppliers not only design products for projects, but also design for precise market needs; modularity enables interchangeability of components between different products, Therefore, the delivery speed can be accelerated and the quality can be guaranteed. In addition, standardization and modularization make the maintenance and expansion of the product more convenient in the later period, and prolong the value life of the product. These all contribute to improving customer satisfaction.
The intelligence of conveying and sorting equipment is mainly reflected in the combination of conveying and sorting technology with information monitoring and Internet of Things technology. Deep learning capabilities are equivalent to adding eyes and brains to conveying and sorting equipment, which greatly expands the service scope of logistics equipment and improves service capabilities.
In the future, in addition to traditional functions, conveying and sorting equipment must also strengthen functions such as real-time monitoring and data uploading.